Everyone in baseball is waiting for the Rays and Rangers to consummate one of the biggest trades baseball has ever seen, a trade that would send ace lefty David Price to Texas for a package of players headlined by the top prospect in baseball, Jurickson Profar. For the time being, though, that’s nowhere near happening and fans will have to settle for the minor trades the Rays and Rangers are making instead. First the Rays dealt catcher Robinson Chirinos to Texas for a player-to-be-named-later or cash, and then, in a separate move, the Rangers traded the player whose Triple-A roster spot Chirinos was set to take, catcher Juan Apodaca, to the Rays for cash considerations. And now that same Chirinos trade has sparked another transaction between the two teams as the Rangers have dealt the player they designated for assignment to put Chirinos on their 40-man roster, left-hander Jeff Beliveau, to the Rays for cash considerations as well per a team release. Beliveau will join the Rays’ 40-man roster, with Jeff Niemann heading onto the 60-day DL to make room.
Beliveau, 26, made his major league debut for the Chicago Cubs in 2012 before heading to the Rangers on a waiver claim in September. Beliveau did not pitch particularly well for the Cubs, managing a 4.59 ERA, an 8.7 K/9, a 6.1 BB/9, and a 2.5 HR/9 in 22 appearances and 17.2 innings pitched, but he was much better at Triple-A, putting up a 3.89 ERA, a 10.6 K/9, a 3.7 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9 in 37 appearances and 44 IP, and he’s somewhat interesting thanks to his age and arsenal. Beliveau isn’t nearly as much of a power pitcher as his minor league numbers would indicate, but he can retire hitters from both sides with a four-mix mix. Here’s a snapshot of what he throws using his Pitch F/X data from his time with the Cubs in 2012 and with the Rangers in spring training of 2013. The data is courtesy of Brooks Baseball and the graph being my own creation.
You can tell quickly from the graph what Beliveau’s major problem in the major league was: he doesn’t throw very hard with his fastball, hitting right around 90 MPH, and he also doesn’t get good sink on it, making him a flyball pitcher susceptible to home runs. He does get good late life on it and it actually was the pitch he was able to force the highest percentage of whiffs on during his time in the majors, but it still is not that great of a pitch, especially when Beliveau was throwing it nearly 60% of the time. The rest of his pitches, though, show reasons for optimism. Beliveau attacked lefties with a big, late-breaking 1-to-7 curveball along with a cutter he used to get a little more contact on the ground, while against righties he paired his fastball with a changeup with dynamic bottoming-out action, almost a little too dynamic as he struggled to throw it for strikes. That was a common refrain for Beliveau in his big league debut as he struggled to make his pitch look like strikes and get hitters to chase, not showing horrible control at all but walking a ton of batters as he worked too many deep counts. But if he can harness his pitches a little bit more, he has a couple of good secondary pitches in his changeup and curveball and has the ability to be successful in a big league middle relief role. Beliveau ties his arsenal together by throwing from a deceptive three-quarters delivery that’s even tougher on hitters thanks to a pause that disrupts hitters’ timing.
The key for Beliveau is going to be to mix his pitches better so he doesn’t have to rely on his fastball as much and can utilize the great movement on his other pitches to force strikeouts and weak contact. One easy thing may be that Beliveau didn’t throw a single changeup to a left-handed batter across the Pitch F/X sample we have, and incorporating that as another thing for hitters to think about to help Beliveau quite a bit. Beliveau may not throw very hard, but he has the type of secondary pitches can could lead to plenty of strikeouts if he can set them all up with his fastball (while not throwing the fastball too much) and sell them more consistently as strikes.
Beliveau will head to Triple-A Durham as he joins the Rays organization and the Rays will see if he can make the adjustments necessary for him to succeed in the major leagues. Beliveau isn’t a no-risk gamble as he will take up a 40-man roster spot, but at the same time the Rays acquired him for basically nothing and he could emerge as a useful reliever. We should see Beliveau in the major leagues at some point this season when the Rays need an extra bullpen arm, and he has a chance to be a solid contributor to the Rays’ relief corps when that time arises.